Progress in Afganistan

Some more news not likely to be seen on the MSM’s.

Afghan transportation takes another giant step forward as the Tarnac River
bridge opens, linking the Rawanii, Raubud, Dand, Karaizak and Kawajali districts
to Kandahar. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jon Arguello

Bridge Provides Link to Kandahar, Future
The bridge itself was completed mid-December 2004, but the project included a
kilometer-long stretch of road improvement on both sides of the new structure.
By U.S. Army Pfc. Jon Arguello
Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2005

It is nice to hear of some actual progress…especially with more Canadians–possibly including a few guys I know–heading back there.

About 1,500 Canadian soldiers will soon be in Afghanistan, joining soldiers, staff and support personal from 40-odd countries, under the command of Turkey, or is it now Italy?

They’ve officially taken charge of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), “a group of soldiers, police, diplomats and aid workers who will work to reinforce the Afghan government and stabilize the region.” This also means providing security in Kandahar for the Sept 18th elections.

They’re taking over from the Americans, and using a different approach to encouraging development:[quote=“”]The U.S. military is much more hands-on, picking the projects it wants to finance, and then obtaining funding from various agencies, including USAID, the American government’s foreign aid branch. It sends its civil affairs team out to identify local projects that first, and foremost, will boost security.

“They identify the projects, they write up, get bids on it, and then it goes up for approval,” said Ball. “Once its approved, then it comes back for contracting and bidding.”

Canada, on the other hand, draws a bureaucratic line between what the military does - providing security - and what aid agencies are expected to accomplish. Canada’s international development agency will ultimately decide which projects receive funding.

That suits the military just fine, Bowes said.

“I’m entirely comfortable with our approach to doing business,” he said.

“As a military officer, I have developed expertise over the years in certain areas. I’m not an expert in providing humanitarian assistance. I’m not an expert in working development plans with the local community.” [/quote]

I’m particularly interested in the different development schemes, because a few years ago I heard John McGill, the president of Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders give a seminar on humanitarian assistance, and the problems his organization had when perceived to be working too closely with combantants on either side of a conflict. Not sure what to think about that. The Red Cross’ ironclad silence is what led to the foundation of MSF in the first place… so for them it means walking a line between taking sides and forceful advocacy.

Anyways, this group of soldiers won’t be the last to go. Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie recently predicted that “Afghanistan is a 20-year venture,” and Western nations should expect to send troops for a generation. He stated the lengthy stay may be necessary to help Afghanistan break out of “a cycle of warlords and tribalism.”

Sounds like reason enough to be cautious. But in case that wasn’t enough, the Canadian defense chief Hiller said the soldiers would be fighting “detestable murderers and scumbags.” (I think I actually like this guy.)

Getting away from the yea!/boo! Bush in Iraq issue, I’d love to see anything people have on putting Humpty-dumpty, I mean, Afghanistan back together again. That place has been a complete mess for so long… I think the 20 year estimate may be conservative.

Arthur Chrenkoff has been collecting and summarizing “good news from Iraq” and “good news from Afghanistan”. These were posted on the Wall Street Journal site for most of the last year. It appears he’s on vacation this week, although here is one of his past Iraq columns:

When this thread was started, I was hoping to see some good news to post here. To tell the truth, I haven’t really been looking, and just happened t stumble upon this. Anyone read better news lately?

[quote=“NYT: Delays Rebuilding Afghanistan”]Islamuddin Ahmadiyar, a 22-year-old student, remembers the excitement in this dusty farming hamlet in central Afghanistan when American contractors broke ground two years ago.

A one-story, 12-room health clinic, nestled between apple and mulberry tree groves, was to replace the mud hut where the village’s lone doctor labored through Afghanistan’s quarter-century nightmare of Soviet occupation, civil war and Taliban rule.

But the clinic remains an unfinished shell, one of 96 American-financed clinics and schools that a New Jersey-based company was supposed to build by September 2004. To date, nine clinics and two schools have been completed and passed inspection, according to the company.

The company, the Louis Berger Group, says progress has been slowed by the requirement to use Afghan construction companies, forcing it to hunt, sometimes vainly, for those that can work fast and to high standards. A design flaw is also forcing it to replace or strengthen the roofs of 89 of the buildings.

“If you play just the numbers game, we’re going to look bad, no doubt about it,” said Thomas Nicastro, a Louis Berger vice president. “But if you look at this as a development issue, then you have an understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

Four years after American-led forces ousted the Taliban, the United States has spent $1.3 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan, intending to win over Afghans with tangible signs of progress. And indeed, there are some. But to Afghans, the Turmai clinic is emblematic of what they see as a wasteful, slow-moving effort that benefits foreigners far more than themselves. “The aid that comes from other countries for the Afghan people, it’s not going to the Afghan people,” said Mr. Ahmadiyar. “It’s being wasted.”

The stakes are enormous. Afghans, famed for briefly tolerating and then viciously turning on occupiers from the British in the 19th century to the Soviets in the 1980’s, are increasingly disenchanted with the American-led reconstruction program.

Meanwhile, the United States hopes to withdraw 4,000 soldiers from the country’s south next spring; a drop in overall foreign aid is expected; and Taliban attacks are rising. So both Afghan officials and foreign diplomats are assessing what has been achieved during the past four years, and many are disturbed by what they see.

Government ministers here say that the foreign consultants and contractors the Americans pay for are producing shoddy work and achieving little - though charging dearly.

“Assistance is coming to Afghanistan, but we don’t know how it is spent, where it is spent,” said Amin Farhang, the Afghan minister of economy, who oversees foreign assistance programs.

And a July report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, sharply criticized the American reconstruction effort and the department leading it, the United States Agency for International Development. It said inconsistent financing, severe staff shortages and a lack of oversight slowed the efforts.

“We really need to reform the external assistance in this country,” said Jean Mazurelle, the World Bank manager in Afghanistan. “We are not in the position to provide the result on the ground that the people of this country are expecting.”[/quote]

This sounds like progress, so I suppose it belongs here. But while I’ve heard a few reports that the Taliban made some serious mistakes countering Operation Medusa, this sounds pretty inflated. Anyone have good information on it?

[quote=“CBC: Canadian-led offensive may have killed 1,500 Taliban fighters”]The U.S. general who heads all NATO military forces says a two-week campaign that cost five Canadian lives in southern Afghanistan may have wiped out half of the “hard-core” Taliban fighters in the country.

The Canadian-led push, Operation Medusa, ended on Sept. 15 when Taliban forces stopped fighting and slipped away, Gen. James L. Jones said on Wednesday.

The Taliban “suffered a tactical defeat in the area where they chose to stand and fight” and got “a very powerful message … that they have no chance of winning militarily,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.

NATO estimates that “somewhere in the neighbourhood of around 1,000” Taliban fighters were killed, and the number could be higher, he said. “If you said 1,500 it wouldn’t surprise me.”

Half of Taliban force may be dead

He said he thought there were 3,000 to 4,000 regular Taliban fighters before Operation Medusa. In response to a question, he agreed that he was saying that one-third to one-half of them may have been killed.[/quote]

Btw, Harmid Karzai’s in Ottawa and Montreal this week, the CDN gov’ts been getting grilled on the mission, and Elections Canada is gearing up for a new election call. Not that one necessarily has anything to do with the others.